Absolutely Fool-Proof Grilled Chicken!

28 Mar

Yummy toppingsSpring in Austin means it’s time to break out the grill!

Although I’ve been known to grill outdoors in 30 degree weather, I tend to do it more often when the temperatures begin to warm up in late March.

I’ve tried this recipe a few times now, just to make sure it’s consistent, and the chicken turns out moist, perfect, and delicious every time!

Ingredients:

–Chicken Breasts

–Olive Oil

–Salt and pepper

–Lime juice (I used Santa Cruz organic in the glass bottle). The lime juice helps tenderize the chicken and keep it moist – it’s very subtle.

–Garlic powder (not to be confused with garlic salt)

Directions:

Begin by pounding out the chicken breasts with a meat tenderizer (or you could use a brick wrapped in foil) – I like to cover the chicken with plastic wrap in order to avoid splattering, and then I pound away.

Chicken Prep

Once the chicken is flattened evenly (not too thin or it will be difficult to flip on the grill), pierce it with a fork several times.

Chicken Pounded

Sprinkle both sides lightly and evenly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

In a small bowl, combine equal parts olive oil and lime juice. Use a brush to brush the mixture onto both sides of the chicken, placing the chicken in a glass pan or shallow bowl and covering it with plastic wrap for 20-30 minutes. I haven’t tried marinating the chicken overnight in this mix – I have a gut feeling that the flavor would be too strong.

Heat up the grill to medium-low (approx. 350-400).

Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another 5-6 minutes until the juices run clear.

 

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Serve with a delicious salad topped with cilantro and tortilla strips, or whip up a grilled chicken sandwich with avocado, red onion, and a side of sweet potato fries.

I had intended on grilling our sandwich buns you see in the photo, but I was so hungry that I just couldn’t wait!


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Stay tuned for more recipes, gardening tips, and lots of other fun things we’re doing Around My Home later this Spring!

To Your Health,

2013 In Review: Around My Home

10 Jan

I love numbers. I dream in Excel, and I have a spreadsheet for nearly everything!

So I was tickled to discover that the stats wizards at WordPress.com prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog.

If you love to look at numbers like I do, you may find this brief snapshot of interest.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

(Amazing) Gluten-Free Almond-Pear Bread

8 Oct

Pear bread fresh from ovenOn a recent trip to Costco, I purchased a large box of beautiful pears after my two-year old begged me to buy them.  They ripened quickly at home and guess who decided he doesn’t like pears!

Note to self: Do not make purchasing decisions based on the whim of a two-year old.

After giving away several beautiful pears to the neighborhood kiddos, I still had more than I could eat by myself.

I absolutely hate letting food go to waste, so I decided to try making pear bread.

I’d never had it, and had never made it, but figured it just had to be good, so why not?

Continue reading

Backyard Oranges – Finally!

3 Oct

Oranges in bowl close up

We harvested our first crop of oranges this year from our Satsuma Mandarin Orange tree.  I purchased the orange tree when I returned from a long-term consulting project in Rome, Italy.

I wanted to plant the tree as a reminder of my work there, since I frequented a large grove of orange trees just a short walk from my office.

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After three years of watching and waiting, we finally got oranges!  We shared some with family, neighbors, and friends, and enjoyed the rest.

Oranges in bowl in kitchen

Some of the oranges were sweet and juicy, a few were dry and tasteless, but all of them were so much fun to pick off of the tree!

DIY Chalkboard for Back-to-School or Anytime!

29 Aug

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This project offers near-instant gratification. It’s super quick and easy and involves very little hands-on project time.

First, choose a surface you’d like to transform into a chalkboard.  You can use wood, canvas, cardboard, ceramic, or even glass. Glass is not much of an option Around My Home, with a two-year old running around that we’ve affectionately named “Grabby Hands”.

I had planned on using a black, pre-primed artist’s canvas to create my first chalkboard. I still think that would turn out great.

For this project, however, I discovered that the frame I had purchased contained a perfect piece of particleboard backing, so that’s what I used instead.

This brand of chalkboard paint comes in a 4 oz. container. I purchased it at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon. I’ve also seen chalkboard paint in quart-size containers at home improvement stores. I just didn’t want to buy that much for such a small project.

chalkboard paint pic

Chalkboard paint is water-based, so I used one of my nicer paintbrushes to apply the paint, knowing that I’d enjoy soap and water cleanup.

I followed the directions on the paint label exactly:

1. Apply two even coats of paint to a clean, dry surface: one coat vertically and one coat horizontally, waiting an hour in-between coats.

I noticed brush strokes when the paint was wet, but they disappeared once the paint had dried.

To keep my work surface from moving around, and to create perfectly clean edges, I used Frog Tape to attach it to a piece of cardboard. I then removed the tape immediately after painting my second coat.

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2. Following the second coat, let the paint cure for 24 hours. 

With our hot, humid summer, I opted to let it cure for closer to 36 hours.

3. Once the paint finished curing, I “primed” the chalkboard by rubbing a piece of chalk lengthwise over the entire surface, and then wiping it off with a soft cloth.

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Now my super-fun chalkboard is ready to use and looks terrific!

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Project Cost Breakdown:

–Frame: $.01 (yes, 1 cent!)

–Chalkboard paint: $1.79 after 40% coupon (can be used for future projects)

–Paintbrush: already had

–Particle board: included in cost of frame above

–Chalk: $1.47

Total cost for this project: $3.27 (plus tax)

I liked my first chalkboard so much that I quickly made a second one:

I liked my first chalkboard so much that I made a second one. I purchased the decorative cutting board at a local thrift store. It had one of those blue and white ceramic plates embedded in it. I had planned on painting over the ceramic, but I couldn't bring myself to paint directly over someone else's artwork. So, I grabbed a manila folder from my office, and used that to produce a thin chalkboard. Then I applied it to the top of the ceramic plate with spray adhesive that allows for non-permanent adhesion. This particular chalkboard is up and out of the way and just for decoration, so I'm not as worried about its durability.

The mini cutting board pictured above was a local thrift store find. It has one of those blue and white ceramic plates embedded in it, which I forgot to photograph in my hastened excitement.

I had originally planned on painting over the ceramic, but once I had my brush in hand,  I just couldn’t bring myself to slather thick black paint over someone else’s artwork.

So, I grabbed a manila folder, cut it to size, and used that to produce my chalkboard instead. Once cured and primed, I applied it to the top of the ceramic plate with re-positionable spray adhesive. Since this chalkboard is out of the way and solely for decoration, I’m not concerned about its durability.

I’ve found myself looking at everyday items Around My Home, wondering if they’d make good chalkboards: picture frames, flower pots, and even old salsa jars (the lids or the glass or both!)

It’s such a fun and rewarding project that I plan to make some personalized gifts for birthdays, housewarming, and Christmas.

What do you have around your home that’s waiting to be re-purposed with a little chalkboard paint?

Summertime Black Bean Soup!

2 Aug
Delicious black bean soup topped with chopped grape tomatoes, plain yogurt, and fresh chives from my garden.

Delicious black bean soup topped with chopped grape tomatoes, plain yogurt, and fresh chives from my garden. Served alongside gluten-free brown rice crackers by Food Should Taste Good, purchased at Costco.

Quick and delicious, this gluten-free black bean soup makes a refreshing summertime meal.

A sweet friend brought a batch of this soup to me after my jaw surgery and I’ve been making it ever since. She shared the recipe with me from AllRecipes.com After making it a few times, I modified the recipe slightly by cutting back on the cumin and using chicken broth instead of veggie broth.

Summertime Black Bean Soup Recipe

Simply combine the following ingredients in a blender until fairly smooth (I used speed 4 on my Vitamix for approximately one minute):

–2 (15 oz) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

–1 1/2 cups chicken broth

–1 cup chunky salsa

–1/2 tsp ground cumin

–Top with plain yogurt to substitute for sour cream, chives, tomatoes, black olives, or whatever you’d like!

Makes ~ five 8 oz. soup portions

To view the original recipe from Maryanne, you can visit the link here.

Enjoy this light and refreshing meal!

Decorate With Books!

30 Jul

While we’re waiting for the paint to dry on my antique vanity bench project, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite design tips: how to decorate with books!

I purchased 3 of these books for $1 each at a local shop that specializes in estate sales. The top one in the stack is a French grammar book that I loved the instant I held it and I paid $5 for it. It's one of the most expensive books I've purchased.

I purchased 3 of these books for $1 each. The top one in the stack is a French grammar book that I paid $5 for. It’s one of the most expensive books in my collection.

Old or new, books are a great way to add character, color, and interest to your home.

I opt for books that are conversation starters and are of interest to me. I like that that they display part of my personality without my saying a word. I also love that I can change them up without spending a fortune!

Here’s a sampling of photos showing how I’ve incorporated books into the design Around My Home:

I love these books! One is a vintage Nancy Drew mystery (I think I read every single one of them when I was younger) and the other is the Bobsy twins - each of these cost me $1. I personally love the weathered look.

I love these books! One is a vintage Nancy Drew mystery (I think I read every single one of them when I was younger) and the other is the Bobsy twins – each of these cost me $1. I personally love the weathered look.

Books create balance, making the perfect backdrop for organizing pictures and other objects you wish to display.

Books create balance, making the perfect backdrop for organizing pictures and other objects you wish to display. All of the books shown here were gifted or picked up for a bargain.

I picked up each of these beauties for under $4 each, some still encased in their original shrink wrap! The retail stickers on each of these was $39.95 and up!

I picked up each of these beauties for under $4 each (3 at Goodwill and 1 at Barnes and Noble), some still encased in their original shrink wrap! The retail stickers on each of these was $39.95 and up!

Here's that same stack on it's home in our family room. Recognize that end table? It's the first piece of furniture I transformed!

Here’s that same stack on it’s home in our family room. Recognize that end table? It’s my first furniture transformation!

This stack is my favorite right now: The big book on the bottom is a gorgeous book on art that was a gift from my mother-in-law. The  Rose Book I purchased at Half Price Books for $3. The French book was calling my name and I couldn't leave without it. I shelled out $14.97 for it - it's by far my most pricey book purchase to date. And I still love it!

This stack is my favorite right now: The big book on the bottom is a gorgeous book on art that was a gift from my mother-in-law. The Rose Book I purchased at Half Price Books for $3. The French culinary book was calling my name and I couldn’t leave without it. I shelled out $14.97 for it – it’s by far my most pricey book purchase to date. And I love it!

I purchased this book for $1. The hydrangeas are from my garden. I dried them and sealed them with acrylic clear coat. (I'll be providing details on how to do this in a near-future post). I already had the flower pot, but I painted it white and sealed it with a glossy clear coat.

I purchased this book for $1. The hydrangeas are from my garden. I dried them and sealed them with acrylic clear coat. (I’ll be providing details on how to do this in a near-future post). I already had the flower pot, but I painted it white and sealed it with a glossy clear coat.

Where to find your books!:

–Garage and Estate sales – deepest discounts are usually offered on Sunday’s.

–Thrift stores such as Salvation Army and Goodwill.

–Bargain or clearance section at retail bookstores.

When you bring them home:

–I dust off the outside covers of the books and mist the pages with Lysol before bringing them in my home. Another tip is to place them in a ziploc bag in your freezer for 48 hours.

–Don’t be afraid to ditch the covers on your books. Some of my favorite books had ugly covers that I tossed to reveal something beautiful beneath it.

Happy Hunting,

My First (Extreme) Furniture Makeover!

12 Jul

My recent interest in furniture transformations has taken on a life of its own!

I just finished transforming my first piece from this:

Before - I scored this beauty at the Salvation Army for $20!

To this!

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It all started with an old door that I acquired  from this adorable 1950′s bungalow I purchased last summer.

After scouring the internet for tutorials on how to transform an old door into a headboard, I stumbled across the BEST one out there: Mandi Gruber’s over at Vintage Revivals.

Mandi has great taste and even greater talent! I read every single post on her blog into the wee hours (some more than once) and also dropped by one of Mandi’s heroes, Brooke, over at All Things Thrifty. I was hooked instantly on what these talented gals are doing!

Starting with the headboard as my first project made me soooooo nervous – what if I seriously messed it up? I want it to be something really special when I’m all finished, so I decided to go shopping for something else.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for, but after visiting a couple of estate and garage sales, I found this beauty at the Salvation Army for $20!

Solid wood and charming, but in definite need of a deep cleaning and some TLC.

Before - I scored this beauty at the Salvation Army for $20!

I loved the detail the instant I saw it and knew it would make for a great glazing project.

I loved the detail the instant I saw it and knew it would make for a great glazing project.

I thoroughly cleaned every crevice of this piece with TSP, using an old toothbrush to remove years of dirt and grime.

I thoroughly cleaned every crevice of this piece with TSP, using  an old toothbrush to remove years of dirt and grime.

Then I sanded it with 150 grit sanding sponges to rough up the surface.

Next time, I’m planning to just clean and go straight to priming, using a bonding primer. I found that sanding it first made it difficult to get the primer and paint to come out even.

Then I sanded it with 150 grit sanding sponges to rough up the surface. Next time, I'm planning to just clean and go straight to priming, using a bonding primer. I found that sanding it first made it difficult to get the primer and paint to come out even.

My first pass at spray-priming in the garage resulted in a thin white layer of dust all over everything.

The Hubsters got busy and set up this portable shop for me in the driveway, complete with tarps to protect the neighbors’ (and our) cars and houses.

After my first pass at priming in the garage and covering everything with white dust, the Hubsters set up this portage shop for me in our driveway.

Primed and ready for paint!

Primed and ready for paint!

I spent a week deciding what color to paint and finally chose classic white with Krylon Colormaster in White Gloss.

So clean and fresh!

And no longer smells like 1960!

Painted white with Krylon Colormaster in  White Gloss! So clean and fresh!

Inside painted.

Let the Glazing Begin!

My first thought when I slathered on the glaze was: “oh no! I just wiped mud all over my beautiful white paint! How do I get this stuff off!

I was really nervous, but just chose to trust all the bloggers who instructed simply wiping off the glaze with a damp rag.

I looked at many, many glazing tutorials on-line. The technique I chose to follow was Mandi Gruber’s “clean glazing” over at Vintage Revivals.

Anyway, Step 1 is to paint the glaze on with an inexpensive brush, paying special attention to all of the detail. Like this:

First part of the glazing process! My first thought when I slathered on the glaze was: "oh no! I just wiped mud all over my beautiful white paint!" I was REALLY nervous, but just chose to trust all the bloggers who instructed simply wiping it off. After looking at TONS of glazed furniture online, the technique I chose to follow was Mandi Gruber's "clean glazing" over at Vintage Revivals. I found her site while searching for how to make a headboard out of an old door (something I plan to do...I already have the door). Anyway, Step 1 is to paint the glaze on with a brush, paying special attention to all of the detail.

Step 2: Wipe off the majority of the glaze, but not all of it. Like this:

Step 2 in the clean glazing process is to wipe off the majority of the glaze, but not all of it.

Step 3: Using a clean, dry paintbrush (not the one you used to apply the glaze), move it in circles everywhere the glaze is, essentially drawing it out from the cracks so that you can wipe it again. Like this:

Step 3 is to take a clean, dry paintbrush (not the one you used to apply the glaze) and move it in circles everywhere the glaze is, essentially, drawing it out so that you can wipe again.

Step 4: Start wiping again until you achieve your desired look. The top part in this photo is the final wipe down, the bottom part of the photo is just after dry-brushing.

Step 4: start wiping again until you achieve your desired look. The top part in this photo is the final wipe down, the bottom part of the photo is just after dry-brushing.

After “Clean Glazing”:

After "Clean Glazing"

 

Side-by-side comparison before and after glazing:

Side-by-side comparison before and after glazing.

Some yummy after photos:

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The next piece I’m planning to tackle is this vanity bench I picked up at an estate sale last weekend:

My next project!

My next project!

Happy Weekend!

Cherry Popsicle (Green) Smoothie

19 Jun
Take a trip down Memory Lane with the nostalgic taste of this Cherry Popsicle Smoothie.

Take a trip down Memory Lane with the nostalgic taste of this Cherry Popsicle Smoothie!

I love smoothies! Even after 12 weeks of nothing but soup and smoothies post jaw surgery, I still love smoothies!

I especially enjoy adding all things green to my smoothies. This smoothie tastes like childhood to me - and I promise that you cannot taste the spinach. Your kids won’t even know it’s in there if you don’t tell them. It’s that good!

It’s super-tasty, really easy, and reminds me of fun Michigan summers with lots and lots of cherries!

Cherry Popsicle (Green) Smoothie Recipe

Simply blend the following ingredients in a blender on high for approximately one minute:

–1 cup apple juice

–1 large handful frozen raspberries (don’t skip this – it’s a key ingredient!)

–1 large handful frozen dark cherries

–2 heaping handfuls of fresh baby spinach

Makes ~ one 20 oz. smoothie

Note: I tend to like my smoothies a bit on the runny side. If you prefer a creamier consistency, add 1/2 frozen banana (optional) and/or use less apple juice. You could also dilute the apple juice with water to reduce the amount of sugar.

Looking for more smoothie recipes? Click here.

To your health this summer,

Thank You Isn’t Enough

27 May

This American flag flies outside my home on Memorial Day as a way to remember.

I pulled up this post I wrote last year with the intent to use this photo again and write something new. After reviewing the post, I realized that it’s exactly what I want to say today as much as it was a year ago…

Around My Home, we fly the American flag on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and several other times a year. It’s one way we can publicly display gratitude for our troops.

I am able to experience many enjoyable moments during this three-day weekend: grilling in the backyard, getting in some much-needed rest, and spending time with my family. I am able to enjoy these things and relax in relative safety, thanks to the men and women who have fought to defend this country that I love.

My uncle served in the Air Force, my brother was in the National Guard and now serves as a police officer, and my grandfather was a firefighter for more than 20 years. Although I know that the fire department is not part of the military, I always thought of my grandfather as a public defender and patriot.

So, though it doesn’t seem like enough, thank you to the men and women of our military who selflessly protect the freedom that I cherish.

And thank you to the families that love them.

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